This is a classic Trumpism in how it walks the line between out-and-out trolling and something a real politician might plausibly say. Ask the entire field of Republican candidates if the nominee has a shot at winning a majority of Latinos next fall and there may not be a single hard “no” in the bunch, even though that’s obviously the correct answer. You know why. Politics 101 says you should never tell a group of voters that you’ve given up on them. That may be the difference between winning 30 percent of Latinos and losing the election narrowly and winning 35 percent and winning it narrowly. The only guy running who might give you a firm “no” is Lindsey Graham because he knows he won’t be the nominee and it serves his amnesty agenda in the Senate to do so. Pass his terrible Gang of Eight bill and then sure — he’ll lie to you and tell you the GOP’s got a shot with Latinos.
As you doubtless know and as Trump probably knows, the high-water mark for Republican nominees with Latino voters over the past 35 years was Dubya, who pulled a whopping 40 percent in 2004 due in part to the fact that that election was an unusual post-9/11 post-Iraq referendum on foreign policy. Prior to that, the man to beat was Ronald Reagan, who managed 37 percent of Latinos in an election in which he won 49 states. Reagan’s presidential heir, George H.W. Bush, pulled just 30 percent of Latinos in 1988 despite Reagan signing a mass amnesty two years earlier. John McCain, who’d spent years in the Senate advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, won 31 percent in 2008. Trump, meanwhile, is a guy whose comments about rapists coming in from Mexico have made him a hot new pinata model across the border and whose own Latino workers (some of them illegal) are happy to tell reporters how pissed they are at him. If not for name recognition, he might be the one guy in the field more than any other who’d guarantee a more lopsided win among Latinos for Democrats than Obama had over Romney in 2012. And at the rate he’s going, even his name recognition might not prevent that. He would have been on firmer ground if he’d had said that, given the party’s polling with Latinos, he stands at least as good of a chance at winning the Latino vote as all the other chumps in the field, the recent uproar over his “rapists” comment notwithstanding.
Again, though, how seriously do you want to take this? Trump’s whole shtick is touting his own supremacy and invincibility even when it’s transparently untrue. (Then again, he was uncharacteristically modest a few weeks ago when asked what his odds were of winning the White House.) If this is newsworthy, it’s newsworthy mainly as evidence of how tongue-in-cheek his approach to the campaign is. Give him a few weeks and he’ll be claiming he expects 75 percent of the Latino vote, no less.